CUHK Researchers Lead the World in Breathing Life into Urban Housing Needs
A research team led by Prof. Edward NG Yan-yung, Yao Ling Sun Professor of Architecture at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), has recently teamed up with researchers in Germany to study Hong Kong’s highly complicated atmospheric conditions and urban winds. This will lead to urban planners and architects being able to obtain more accurate data for building design and city planning, and is especially useful for tackling the current problem of housing shortage in Hong Kong. The study is unprecedented in its scale and level of complexity, affirming CUHK’s leading position in urban studies and research.
The joint team will utilise the German researchers’ advanced computational simulation techniques and their national super computer (equivalent to more than 100,000 desktop computers working together) to conduct studies on Hong Kong’s highly complicated atmospheric conditions and urban winds, especially during day times. Unprecedentedly, a large urban area in fine resolution will be studied. This level of complexity has never been studied before and CUHK is leading the world on this. With the results, researchers can better understand the urban wind environment of the city, for example, how sea breezes may benefit the urban winds, or how wind circulates in the city under strong sunshine periods, so providing more accurate data for identifying suitable development sites and designing optimal building intensity and configurations.
The importance of sustainable urban living
Housing shortage is a topical issue in Hong King. Lately, the HKSAR Government has been trying hard to secure a supply of land on which to build more residential units. In Professor Ng’s view, whilst one is trying hard to solve an immediate problem, the long term sustainability of the city’s urban living must not be compromised. He said, ‘Scientifically led and evidence based planning decision making must be exercised to balance and to optimise this concern. Whilst we are busy sourcing land for housing for now, we should also be concerned about providing long-term sustainable and quality urban living for people in Hong Kong. This is important especially when we need to take climate change into consideration. Researchers at CUHK are developing studies to better capture our changing urban living environment under climate change. Together with researchers in geography, public health and meteorology, we are projecting Hong Kong into the future. Hopefully, our ongoing studies will provide insights for our next generations.’
Past work and contributions of CUHK on city planning
Since the SARS outbreak in 2003, researchers at CUHK have been studying Hong Kong’s urban wind environment for building design and city planning. The unfortunate episode of SARS has alerted people to the importance of our built environment in healthy living. Sunlight inactivates germs, and fresh air dilutes them. Providing sunlight and urban wind are therefore a paramount consideration for architects, planners, policy makers, and stakeholders in the construction industry.
In 2006, the CUHK research team led by Professor Ng assisted the Planning Department of the HKSAR Government to establish the ‘Air Ventilation Assessment (AVA) Technical Circular’. A new section on Air Ventilation drafted by CUHK researchers has also been incorporated into Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines (HKPSG). Since then, government and private major projects have been required to conduct AVA studies to ascertain that the design will not adversely affect the local urban wind environment. The large space in the middle of the Hong Kong Government Headquarters building testifies to the importance of considering urban air ventilation in its designs. An AVA register has also been kept by the Planning Department of the HKSAR Government to disseminate the details of AVA studies.
In 2012, the CUHK research team produced the Hong Kong Climatic Maps to further assist the Planning Department of the city. The climatic maps are the scientific results of researches into Hong Kong’s thermal and wind environment, and the urban thermal comfort of people working and walking in the open spaces of our urban environment. The climatic maps outline the planning recommendations in different districts of Hong Kong. For dense urban areas, mitigation measures have been outlined so that planners know better what to do, and where and how, to develop our city.
Professor Ng said, ‘Our study results enable researchers in CUHK to better advise the Government’s recent search for housing sites. Not all sites initially identified are suitable for further development. In addition, new development, if any, needs to be carefully evaluated and optimised to minimise its effects to the surrounding wind environment for healthy living. In a nutshell, techniques have been developed by the CUHK research team to analyse the existing wind environment, the air paths and wind regime of the site, so that possible building intensity and configurations may be better understood, designed and planned.’
Beyond Hong Kong, CUHK researchers are applying the same technique for neighbouring cities like Macau, Kaohsiung, Singapore, WuHan, Xian and others. The advanced researches have also strengthened the teaching at CUHK. The MSc in Sustainable and Environmental Design offered by the School of Architecture is leading the region, if not the world, on designing for better high density living in the tropics. For more information, please visit: www.sustain-CUHK.info.
About Yao Ling Sun Professorship in Architecture
With the generous bequest from Mr. Yao Ling Sun, the Yao Ling Sun Professorship in Architecture was set up to enhance the research in Architecture, thus contributing to the well-being of the people of Hong Kong and the wider world community. Prof. Edward NG Yan-yung, the first incumbent of Yao Ling Sun Professor of Architecture, delivered his inaugural lecture ‘The Right is to be Done’ on campus earlier.
Recap of the lecture:
Biography of Professor Ng: